Women—Are They Respected Today?
WHY should this question even arise? some surprised males might ask. But when we examine the treatment of women throughout history, and nowadays in all the world, a few simple questions give us a clue to the answer.
In human relationships, who have mainly been the victims and who the oppressors? Who primarily have been battered in marriage? Men or women? Who have been raped in times of peace and of war? Who have been the major victims of childhood sexual abuse? Boys or girls? Who have often been consigned by man-made decrees to second-class citizenship? Who have been denied the right to vote? Who have had limited opportunity for education? Men or women?
The questions could go on and on, but the facts speak for themselves. In her book May You Be the Mother of a Hundred Sons, Elisabeth Bumiller writes, based on her experiences in India: “The ‘typical’ Indian woman, representing about 75 percent of the four hundred million women and female children in India, lives in a village. . . . She can neither read nor write, although she would like to, and has rarely traveled more than twenty miles [30 km] from her place of birth.” This inequality in education is a problem not just in India but throughout the world.
In Japan, as in many other countries, a disparity still exists. According to The Asahi Yearbook for 1991, the number of male students in four-year university courses is 1,460,000 while that of females is 600,000. Without a doubt, women all over the world can testify to their inferior opportunities in the field of education. ‘Education is for boys’ is the attitude they have had to face.
In her recent book Backlash—The Undeclared War Against American Women, Susan Faludi asks some pertinent questions about the status of women in the United States. “If American women are so equal, why do they represent two-thirds of all poor adults? . . . Why are they still far more likely than men to live in poor housing and receive no health insurance, and twice as likely to draw no pension?”
Women have overwhelmingly been the ones who have suffered most. They are the ones who have borne the brunt of indignities, insults, sexual harassment, and lack of respect at the hands of men. This mistreatment is by no means limited to so-called developing countries. The U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee recently compiled a report on violence against women. It came up with some shocking facts. “Every 6 minutes, a woman is raped; every 15 seconds, a woman is beaten. . . . No woman is immune from violent crime in this country. Of American women alive today, three out of four will be the victim of at least one violent crime.” In one year, from three to four million women were abused by their husbands. It was this deplorable situation that led to the introduction of the Violence Against Women Act of 1990.—Senate Report, The Violence Against Women Act of 1990.
Let us now examine some of the settings in which women have endured a lack of respect from men around the world. Then, in the last two articles in this series, we will discuss how mutual respect can be shown by men and women in all walks of life.